Becoming a mother is part miracle-working, part-emotional-roller-coaster riding, and full-time bodybuilding. After all, you spent the better part of a year making a person (now that’s what we call serious gains). Once you’ve reached the finish line and met the living embodiment of your PB (personal best), you may be thinking about what’s next for you, your body, and your exercise routine.
It’s true, your body has undergone some serious changes since bringing a new life into the world. That means your workouts and exercise routine should take those changes into consideration so you can go for gold in all wellness categories. Although physical activity during a postpartum period may be challenging, it’s not impossible.
Although your new workout will probably look a lot different than what you’re used to, exercise after birth can not only help your body heal but also aid it in regaining its strength.1 In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about postpartum exercise, from how soon you can get started to what the benefits of exercising are for new moms.
Timing A Return To Exercise Post-Pregnancy
So when can you get back to working out after your baby is born?
It depends but for the average mom, about six weeks postpartum (for uncomplicated pregnancies). By then, your body will return back to normal from all of the hormonal changes it experienced before giving birth and during the immediate time after birth.2
However, as with most things regarding pregnancy, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t quite work when timing your return to your workout routine.1
For instance, if you had a delivery that went by smoothly, you might find yourself feeling comfortable doing light exercise just a few days after giving birth. On the other hand, if you experienced a complicated pregnancy or birth—maybe one that involved a cesarean section—your body might need a little more time to recover.
Consult your healthcare provider—they’ll help you understand what your healing body needs and when exercise can be part of your life again.2
How Much Exercise Can I Do After Giving Birth?
While the answer truly depends on your circumstances (and your healthcare provider’s insights),1 the reigning medical recommendation is for new moms to stick to light exercise right after giving birth.1 A gentle exercise is a great way to get back into your fitness routine slowly without pushing yourself too hard.
Low-intensity workouts could include:
- Light jogging
These low-key exercises reap the benefits of exercise without putting too much of a strain on your body. If you go straight into an intense exercise, you might end up hurting yourself.
Healthcare providers also advise new moms to avoid high intensity workouts or high impact sports right after giving birth.
Think of it this way—your entire body has spent nine months making it as easy as possible for you to give birth to your child. That means joints are a little more pliable and muscles are a little more worn out. After nine months of prep plus the actual work of giving birth, your body is going to need a little time to build-up strength and resume normal activities.
No matter when you choose to start, the key is starting slow and letting your body be your guide. As you slowly increase the intensity of your workouts, be sure to listen to your body, stopping if you feel any pain, and adjusting your goals to match your situation.
Will Exercise Affect My Milk?
Now that you have a child, it can seem like your every thought goes back to making sure they’re safe, happy, warm, fed, and of course, clean and dry. With so many things happening to your postpartum body, you might even be wondering if exercise will affect your child’s life—specifically, your milk production.
There’s an old belief that doing high intensity workouts can cause your breastmilk to turn too sour for your newborn due to a buildup of lactic acid—a natural byproduct of exercise. Good news: according to doctors, this outcome is extremely rare.
What does impact how frequently you produce breast milk is your level of fatigue and stress.1 That’s why healthcare professionals recommend moms start slow and gradually build up their exercise intensity as their bodies gain strength.
However, there is one key thing to consider as you get back into your workout routine: pumping breast milk before a workout. Not because the milk’s taste will change if you pump after, but because working out with full breasts can feel uncomfortable.
Long story short? Pump breastmilk first, then get pumped for your work out.
5 Benefits of Postpartum Exercise
Exercising during the postpartum period has many benefits.During one of probably many appointments, your healthcare provider may have talked up the benefits of exercise during pregnancy. But how does exercise impact the postpartum body? 2
#1 Supports A Positive Mental and Physical Wellbeing
A new baby is a beautiful addition to any family—but it also can be a lot of work, emotionally and physically.
That’s where exercise comes in. During light and moderate exercise, your body releases endorphins, natural chemicals in your body that make you feel happy. This is good for your mind and your body.
#2 Improves Your Cardiovascular Fitness
Regular exercise also improves your cardiovascular health, a.k.a. heart health. This keeps your heart healthy in the long run and improves the blood flow across your body. Cardiovascular exercise has also been shown to reduce your resting heart rate, improve your mood, and raise your energy levels.3
#3 Strengthen Muscles That Need a Post-Pregnancy Tune-Up
While high impact exercise might be challenging, light strength training can be done shortly after childbirth if you know your body is able. When you’re pregnant, certain muscles can get a little worn out. These include:
- Abdominal muscles
- The muscles of your pelvic floor
- The musculature of your lower back
By incorporating a dose of strength training to your routine, you can help prevent health issues down the road such as muscle injury, chronic pain, frequent body aches.
#4 Builds Strong Joints
Just like muscles, your joints have done a lot of amazing work during your pregnancy and could use some post-baby TLC. Exercise can help strengthen your joints to help reduce your risk for injury, torn ligaments, and
#5 Increases Your Energy Levels
When you’re the parent of a newborn, you need all the energy you can get! This is especially true since your energy levels will likely fluctuate with the hormonal changes in your body after birth. Regular exercise, even if it’s low intensity, gradually raises your energy levels over time and helps you feel more energized throughout your day.
Post-Pregnancy Workouts to Try
You’ve bought the post-pregnancy leggings, your new workout bra fits like a dream, and you’re ready to dive into exercise. After consulting with your doctor, jump into your new wellness routine by trying out a few of these exercises:
- Pelvic alignment reps – Pregnant women are susceptible to anterior pelvic tilt4 which is when the alignment of the pelvis rotates forward resulting in complications like back pain from excessive strain on the lower back. You can prevent anterior or posterior pelvic tilt using the pelvic tilt exercise. Lie with your back on the floor and knees bent. As you breathe out, aim to flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominals. You will notice your pelvis bending upward slightly. Hold this pose for up to ten seconds. Repeat as needed. 5 Strengthening your pelvic muscles is important after childbirth.
- Happy baby pose – This is a gentle stretch of your lower back and can help massage it at the same time. It works well at the end of a workout. Lie with your back on a yoga mat and hold your ankles, resembling a baby lying on its back. Rock gently from left to right.6
- Deep-belly breaths: One of the best ways to restore your core postpartum is to take deep belly breaths. Start with gently inhaling as your belly softens and expands. Follow up with a slow exhale and let your belly relax back to its resting state. Avoid sucking your belly in while inhaling and forcing it out when you exhale. You can also follow a simple breathwork routine for ten minutes a day to coordinate breathing throughout your core.7
Find Your New Favorite Wellness Routine with Chuze Fitness
Whether you’re currently pregnant and looking for the best pregnancy workouts or just given birth and looking to get back to your fitness routine, be sure to listen to your body. Getting back into the groove of exercising after pregnancy might seem as tough to manage as baby sleep regressions, but you’ve already done the hardest, most important work of all—deciding to start. You deserve to celebrate the incredible feat of motherhood and treat your body to a wellness routine that will sustain you in the amazing years to come.
With Chuze Fitness, you can find a fitness class, or workout you enjoy doing, and gradually build up the intensity to a level as you progress. One of the best ways to find a rhythm with your fitness is to join a group class. Check out the extensive list of group classes we offer at Chuze fitness and visit one of our many locations to get started on your fitness journey.
- Houston Methodist. Postpartum Exercise: What to know about exercising after pregnancy. https://www.houstonmethodist.org/blog/articles/2021/feb/postpartum-exercise-what-to-know-about-exercising-after-pregnancy/
- Better Health. Postnatal Exercise. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/postnatal-exercise#the-benefits-of-postnatal-exercise
- Hopkins Medicine. 7 heart benefits of exercise. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/7-heart-benefits-of-exercise
- NIH. Pelvic alignment changes during the perinatal period https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6799872/
- Mayo Clinic. Pelvic tilt exercise. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/multimedia/pelvic-tilt-exercise/
- Healthline. Happy baby pose. https://www.healthline.com/health/happy-baby-pose#about
- Informed pregnancy. How to restore your core postpartum. https://www.informedpregnancy.com/how-to-restore-your-core-postpartum/
- Medicine Plus. Kegel exercises. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000141.htm